Rainbow Flag Artist Gilbert Baker Dies at 65

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Rachel Gould

Art & Design Editor

American artist Gilbert Baker has passed away at his home in New York at the age of 65. The Kansas-born, San Francisco-based trailblazer was best known for creating the rainbow flag as an icon of gay pride.

According to BBC News, Gilbert Baker first conceived of the rainbow flag as a symbol of LGBT pride, rights, diversity, and acceptance back in 1978 for Gay Freedom Day (now the Pride Parade). His original flag boasted eight colors, “each representing a different aspect of humanity.” Pink stood for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for the human spirit. It was later refined to six stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

Gilbert Baker during SF Pride 2012

According to Baker’s website, the artist wound up in San Francisco in the 1970s by way of his time in the army. He was stationed in San Francisco at the dawn of the gay liberation movement and, upon being discharged from his military post in 1972, he began sewing flags, which he saw as fitting symbols of power. Aside from Baker’s significant artistic contribution to the gay community, he also created flags for the French, Venezuelan, and Filipino presidents.

In 2015, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City “acquired the iconic Rainbow Flag into its design collection, where it joins similarly universal symbols such as the @ symbol, the Creative Commons logo, and the recycling symbol.” MoMA considered the flag a “powerful design milestone.”

In honor of Baker’s life and death, the rainbow flag has been raised in San Francisco near Harvey Milk Plaza.

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